All posts by Mr Hari Covert

I am a passionate foodie, former chef and also ex hotel & restaurant inspector. I have been immersed in food for over forty years so its been a lifetimes work...

Protected: A walk on the wild side…(this will go live @ 09:00 on 25th Feb 2019)

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“Choice or No Choice” – that is the question?

I was discussing with an old friend the other day the modern restaurant trend to provide set menus with no choice and whether being this dictatorial is a step too far for the customer.

When I set up “Hari Covert’s” my menus have always in the most been a no choice affair and we will to a degree cater for allergies or dietary requirements where we can.

I can think of a few places in Kent who operate a set menu no choice or very limited menu policy and my friend bemoaned the one he wanted to go to was inflexible in its approach. Not only did he have to book so far in advance to secure a table there was not an alternative if you did or could not eat what was on offer!

He had some friends who went and were given a “bloody” pigeon breast that basically they could not eat and it has put him right off.

My argument would be do not go if for some reason you cannot be open minded enough to try even if no choice!

Now this for me is a major turnaround from the young lad who would not eat any meat as child unless it was chicken breast and was a very fussy eater!

Chefs today have to be so clever and so flexible to deal with so many food fads and allergies it does not surprise me to see them offer limited or no choice menus. It not only makes commercial sense it also is a very big challenge to come up with something to suit all tastes, palates and dietary needs.

Planning for the YCPS Charity Dinner in May has been a challenge not only trying to get the dishes out of the participating chefs but also to make the menu fit for all tastes.

In fact one likely attendee said to me recently  when I revealed the menu to them that they would not be able to eat the first course as it would contain an ingredient they could not stand – “just more for my partner”  they remarked (a good attitude to have)

Open mindedness is vital when partaking in a set or very limited choice meal and whilst I equally have foods I am not so keen on I always try to keep a really open mind to what I am being served.

It always use to annoy me when inspecting restaurants, especially Asian to be told the Chinese or Japanese scripted specials on the table were not for the “Western tastes”. Let me make that decision please.

Very true on one occasion when I ordered a “raw squid marinated in the bile of its own intestines”… mind you the crispy salmon skin on another occasion was a revelation that I still fantasize over.

So I thought it would be good to conduct a poll… let’s see what you all think (up to 2 answers allowed) and do feel free to comment about some of the surprised revelations that you have eaten and even your own food hell’s that you wish you hadn’t !!!

Fondue Nights at the Bicycle Bakery…

We are back in Tunbridge Wells on the 22nd & 23rd February for a pop up at the infamous Bicycle Bakery… Makers of some amazing Sourdough Bread and classic pastries. We thought how could we showcase their expertise and we thought why not use their Sourdough bread with a classic Swiss Cheese Fondue and a dessert inspired and produced by owner Jamie Tandoh – A yummy sounding Warm Coconut Arancini served with a fresh pineapple & cardamon salsa.

To kick the evening off we will serve a welcome drink with some simple nibbles and the first course will be a simple leaf salad garnished with “Kent Collection” cured Salamis and toasted walnuts whilst for vegetarians we will substitute with goats cheese & beetroot.

The fondue shared on each table (8 persons) will be made with an amalgamation of three Swiss Cheeses. Emmenthal, Gruyere & Appenzeller slowly heated with white wine & garlic and if the whole table are in agreement we will add some dried cepes to the fondue to give it a woody & earthy flavour much loved by the Swiss.

We recommend to drink with the meal you pick a dry white wine or a chilled beer as red wine with its tannin’s can cause the cheese to knot in your stomach and cause cramps. We will provide Ice Buckets and Glasses on the tables.

Just sixteen places each night (two tables of eight so you will need to share) will keep it intimate and a great way to meet new people.

To book your places please complete the form below and we will email you an invoice for a booking deposit of £5 per person (refundable if the event is cancelled) This will need to be done to secure your places.

We ask guests to arrive at 7;30pm and we will serve up at 8pm

Dates: Friday 22nd February & Saturday 23rd February

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £30 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Simple Nibbles

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Leaf Salad with Kent Collection Cured Salamis & Toasted Walnuts

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Swiss Cheese Fondue with Bicycle Bakery Sourdough Bread (addition of dried Cepes if all in agreement on the table)

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Coconut Arancini with a Fresh Pineapple & Cardamon Salsa

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Coffee or Tea

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability 

 

We are back…

OK it has been a hard slog but we are pleased to announce that we are now ready to start offering our home venue for Pop up events once again and our first one is now scheduled to take place on Saturday January 26th.

The leg gets stronger everyday and we are excited to be back at the stove and hopefully cooking up a storm.

We will kick this first event off with a four course menu for just the one night. We will start with a welcome drink and some simple seasonal nibbles on arrival and then the first course will be a homemade Pork and Apricot Terrine served with a homemade chutney.

Next we will serve a roasted Duck Breast served with a “Pepper Club” sauce… this is a cream based meat sauce flavoured with piquant green peppercorns and sherry soaked golden raisins. We will serve this with appropriate vegetable garnishes according to market purchases.

Our ubiquitous cheese course will feature on of our favourite seasonal cheeses as it only produced during the winter months  – a Vacherin Mont D’or which is an unpasteurised soft cows milk cheese from the Jura region that is wrapped with spruce bark.

Finally to finish the meal off we will reproduce a dessert we first learnt over forty years ago when working in Switzerland. A gateau “Audrey Hepburn” – this cake was allegedly one of the film stars favourites and is fundamentally a light flour less chocolate cake served with whipped cream and then my addition of some tart raspberry compote helps to cut its richness.

Coffee or Tea served with some petit fours will complete the meal. We will have just twelve places up for grabs so please book quickly as we suspect this will be a popular event considering this will be our first event since June 2018 !!!

Just complete the booking form below and we will email you a secure link for a £5 Booking Confirmation Deposit payable on line. We then request you to pay the balance owing on the night in cash. We will provide water and glasses on the table . Bring your own drinks to have with your meal.

Dates: Saturday 26th January 2019

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Apricot Terrine with a homemade chutney

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Roasted Duck Breast “Pepper Club”

Seasonal Vegetables & Potatoes

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Vacherin Mont D’Or with Crackers

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Chocolate Gateau ” Audrey Hepburn”

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Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability 

Please use the form below to make your booking – we will email you a secure link to pay your £5 per person confirmation deposit. Balance payable on the night with cash.

2018 What a year…

Well as we now approach the end of the year we can say 2018 has been a year of ups and downs… We would firstly like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you for your custom and support. It has been much appreciated.

The second half of 2018 has been very challenging whilst I have recovered from a broken femur and at times I had felt very frustrated I was unable to offer my services to you. I can now say that it has given me time to reflect and plan what we will be doing in the future and I do hope you will join us at one of our events as we get much pleasure in providing good food and ambiance.

We have just posted our 2019 dates up to June that will take place in a variety of venues and we could well be adding other dates at our home (secret) venue as well so watch this space. All events are open for booking and we will also be posting more details of menus and prices nearer to each event. If you wish to reserve your spaces now please just complete the booking form on our Events Page .

We hope you have a great festive season and it brings you much joy and happiness. We are excited to get cooking again in 2019 and hope we can welcome you all to our table and a fine meal at some stage.

Merry Christmas

Hari Covert and his team

Kym’s Restaurant, London – a review…

For those of you that know me well will already know I am a big fan of Chinese food and have long loved the diversity and subtleness of this style of cuisine.

We have done a few special dinners with my friend Kam Po But who for many years was the Executive Chef at Ken Lo’s Memories of China.  A couple of years I was introduced to Mr Andrew Wong the chef patron of A.Wong in Victoria (just down Wilton Road beside the station) It was a mind blowing lunch hosted by Ken Hom and I have tried many times to go back to sample what is now deemed to be Michelin star worthy.

I recently had a meeting planned in London with a group of chefs to discuss an upcoming Pop Up in aid of charity that is planned for May 2019 but due to assorted reasons there was only one chef available to make the meeting so we decided to go and try Mr Wong’s new place in the city.

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Kym’s Restaurant is located in the Bloomberg Arcade just across the road from Cannon Street station so for me still hobbling on crutches it was an easy journey.

I met with another chef who was also keen to sample what this place had to offer as there had been some magnificent reviews since opening just 4 weeks previously. I had heard good things from several sources and seen some stunning food pictures on my Instagram feed from assorted trusted diners so had high expectations for my visit.

We arrived just after 1:30 pm a little earlier than we had booked as we were hungry. Greeted at the door we were welcomed by a charming hostess who informed us the table was ready so off we set and sat down literally in front of an open plan kitchen area. Menu place mats got the old gastric juices flowing as we sat trying to decide what to sample. Andrew Wong’s statement centre and proud states they focus on the “Ancient craft of Chinese roasting and on the assorted regions of China”

Well choice was hard and my fellow chef colleague stated he could have eaten the whole menu “but that was just being greedy” Friendly service staff suggested we pick 3-4 dishes from the Small Plates section one from the “Share Section” and one from the “Classics” plus a “Side” and a “Fritter”… what was then fatal was another staff member walked past as we were giving our order with another table order- a “skewer” dish of Tiger Prawns that we decided we also had to try so added this last minute.

So as we sat back with a small carafe of white wine from Crete we soaked up the atmosphere and buzz of a busy bustling restaurant that seemed to have found its feet very quickly.

First dish to arrive was a side of Pickled Daikon… pale yellow in colour decoratively arranged on the plate with a dribble of what was a fiery chilli oil… perfect palate tantaliser! Then almost immediately followed by Pork & Shrimp Bao Bao… a dish reminiscent of “Spanish Eggs” as the light as a feather filled dumplings were surrounded by soft yolked fried eggs and Pat Chun sweetened black rice vinegar and chilli all served in a sizzling skillet pan. An amazing dish.

Next to arrive was what was described as Lemongrass Salad – some skewered little gem leaves of lettuce with thin crispy fried skins and a zingy lime chilly crispy shallot dressing that truly enlivened the taste buds – It not only looked stylish but tasted divine.

Then came our Tiger Prawn skewers that were encased in what seemed like crispy rice coating and a sweet chilli dipping sauce, good meaty and sweet tasting prawns. The small plate bowl of Lotus Root Chips were a revelation of crispy distinctive looking crisps that were coated in a sticky fermented chilli bean, honey sauce that seemed to conclude the first half of our order.

We then moved onto the much lauded French Beans Fritters encased in a light ethereal batter of such delicacy then with the addition of chilli, spring onion and black pepper a nod to Salt & Pepper spiced dishes nestling in its crumpled grease proof paper base.

We could not omit a classic roast pork Char Sui made with delicate and tender Iberico Pork as this came with a Honey and Soy dip for added flavour punch.  With this we then had the  Sichuanese Spiced Aubergine that was totally melt in the mouth.

We then felt we should then sample a dessert or two, or three… they have a choice of three and to be honest as luck would have it they had sold out of one of them… The Sunny Egg Tart!

We therefore just had to try the other two on offer The Hong Kong Bun with Custard and the Raspberry Sorbet with a White Chocolate Strong Cloud. Of the two we liked the raspberry sorbet best with the warm white chocolate and the cold sorbet married beautifully.

This was a very accomplished meal for a restaurant so fresh on the scene and the staff were really friendly and engaging. I would love to try the Sunday Brunch as this is a way to sample a good proportion of the menu along with limitless wine (for 2 hours) – what better way to spend a Sunday.  Go try it I urge you…

The Small Holding… a review

I was recently treated to a meal at this restaurant by a friend which was very generous of them, especially as they also had to be my taxi service as well.

The Small Holding had been on my radar for some time as its chef patron Will Devlin had for a period before hand been running a series of pop ups in the area as “No Fixed Abode” and I had heard good things and been impressed by their Instagram feed with some imaginative and stylish modern British food.

Well as the rain tipped down on our way to the place located out in the countryside just south of  Tunbridge Wells in the village of Kilndown with lovely views (on a less inclement day) across the Weald this former pub (the Globe & Rainbow) offers some serious cooking with a great deal of produce grown on site or foraged locally and the rest resourced from local farms nearby.

The menus are divided between what they term ½ Acre or Full Acre the former is five courses and the latter nine courses of tasting plates. Both menus can be paired with wines or craft beers at an extra cost.

The menus offered are a no choice affair that highlights what is in season and at their best from the poly tunnels and working small holding in their back yard and what the hedgerows have to offer. It is imaginative and in places quirky where they use a range of techniques or flavour combinations to test and excite your palate.

We settled at our table in a cosy dining area with wood burning stove for those chilly winter days, wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen that is open to view all adding to the charm of the place. We opted for the ½ Acre Menu as it was lunch time. Some nibbles delivered to us highlighted courgettes, a bhaji style fritter, a batter encrusted flower, and a little filo tartlette filled with a creamy pungent puree certainly whetted the appetite.

Our first course was home cured Bresola that was served with assorted textures of beetroot and some creamy soft burrata cheese, great simple presentation with a balance of flavours and textures.

Next came some bread along with the next course, the bread – sour dough with some local rapeseed oil and basalmic vinegar and a big dollop of local butter. The course it accompanied was a home grown courgette stuffed with some Kentish Blue cheese topped with some puffed bulgar wheat – a really unctuous and full flavoured dish.

We then had a fish course that was a little morsel of freshly salt cured mackerel served on top of shredded mackerel mixed with a horseradish cream sandwiched between two discs of home-grown pickled kohlrabi dusted with some Lovage salt. It looked and tasted very good – just wish it had been twice the size as it was exceedingly moreish.

For the main course we then had some roasted old spot pork literally from the neighbour (the other side of the hedge from them) a couple of slices of a perfectly roasted loin and a crispy morsel of soft pork belly it was garnished with a tasty home- grown carrot topped with a nutty sesame crumb – very accomplished and balanced with their flavour combinations.

For the dessert course we had locally foraged wild blackberries that were with a lovely tart coulis of said same fruit topped with a “rocher” of fennel ice cream topped with foraged wood sorrel – some biscuit crumb added a textural compliment. It certainly hardly touched the sides!

We completed the meal with the cheese a Burwash Rose an unpasteurized cows milk cheese from nearby Stonegate in East Sussex – served with some oat biscuits and thin homemade crackers and a courgette pickle the cheese is washed in rose water so it has a distinctive flavoured rind a perfect finish to the meal.

I was impressed and so glad I had finally made it to try Will’s food – I am now looking forward to quizzing him on the September 4th Scoff Quaff show on Channel Radio and digging deeper into how the venture came about and what the plan is for the future. I will be back and I hope you will tune in at 11-12 on the 4th to hear more about it all. If nothing else try the place out as it is certainly one to watch for the future…

The Small Holding – Kilndown Tel: 01892 890105

https://thesmallholding.restaurant/

In the blink of an eye…

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On June 12th a little incident happened in my home that has impacted my daily routine in a big way.

At about 10:30am I stood up from my desk and walked to answer the front door intercom and in the process managed to slip on a slightly damp tiled floor. What resulted was a left leg at a funny angle an emergency ambulance being called and rushed to A&E

It aspired my already dodgy left leg with a false knee cap ligament and then a previously broken left ankle has a new ailment – namely a displaced fracture of my femur that then required surgery and resulted in a stay in hospital for ten days.

My previous hospital incarnation 25 years ago with the knee ligament was a period I had tried to erase from my memory as the lasting memory was the food was so dire and inedible.

Well I can report even after the intervention of the likes of celebrity chefs James Martin and Llyod Grossman and a host of foodies and a plethora of consultants the food is still shit. In fact I will go further and say totally inedible with no attempt to make it in any way tasty or exciting.

Three days prior to me finally going down for an operation I was ‘Nil by Mouth’ from breakfast till dinner so hunger was setting in and even a simple sandwich or a so called ‘Cornish Pasty’ were abominations of culinary skills. Dry stale sandwiches shipped in from Bradford and a pasty with under-cooked pastry and filling with more resemblance of dog food.

On the fourth day I had to resort to a local chef friend popping in from his place of work with a plate of something edible as the thought of the NHS offer was so depressing. His Roasted Cod Fillet with Brown Shrimps and some seasonal vegetables was a real treat that was eagerly consumed.

I can honestly say over the ten day period there was only one palatable meal that I could say was edible – namely a chicken curry with rice and peas.

Breakfast was repetitive – toast of bread or a bowl of cereal – never eggs – toast always cold and cardboard like.

So where is this leading – I have nothing but praise for all the front-line staff who cared for me or were responsible for my surgery etc. The catering however was not in anyway worthy of a good word. I appreciate they have to cater for large numbers in a challenging environment and with assorted dietary needs – as one Vegan/Vegetarian pointed out to me no chance and if you were Coeliac. I reckon prisoners get better food than was dished up to me.

I feel the whole food issue within hospitals needs a total new approach and  thought process – It requires radical change and an innovative approach. In fact as an organisation the NHS expertise lies in well being, medical etc and simply not providing nourishment. So why even try ?

Our Government demands the NHS becomes more efficient with the resources it gets I wonder what impact it would have if catering was removed totally from their remit and given to external providers? A discussion worth having perhaps – what says you?

Happy Friday the 13th…

UPDATE: Due to an unlucky accident on June 12th and ending up hospitalised for ten days and a broken femur this event is now cancelled. Will update in due course on future events


Paraskevidekatriaphobia sufferers need not attend…

Well for our July event it will take place on Friday 13th July – we are not superstitious and hope you aren’t either!  We are planning weather permitting to make it an alfresco meal down the bottom of our garden – please note if weather is too unsettled it will be done indoors.

We felt for this dinner we would make it a memorable four course meal that showcased some interesting techniques and flavour combinations. (Not that all are dinners are not so intended!)

We will kick the meal off with a welcome dink and nibbles of a seasonal nature and then serve as a first course a homemade coarse terrine that will incorporate pork and chicken… I love making a terrine as there is a skill to keeping it moist and full of flavour and it always excites me when I cut into it for the first time. I will serve it with a homemade butternut squash & cranberry chutney that has been maturing now for a good while!

Next a challenging dish for some will be a Ceviche of sea bass and salmon. This is raw marinated fish served with a thinly sliced salad of fennel. The addition of mint in the Ceviche also adds a zing to the citric marinade that cooks the fish. Perfect for a summer evening.

The main course will be roasted beef fillet served with a “Pepper Club” sauce – this is a piquant green peppercorn and port soaked raisin cream sauce – we will serve some fresh green beans (as always) and pommes dauphine little deep fried mashed potato and choux pastry pillows… perfect to mop up the sauce.

Finally we will basically serve a jelly & ice cream dessert that will showcase Marden based cider makers Phil & May Turner and specifically their elderflower cider – we will also stud it with fresh local raspberries and when we serve it some homemade strawberry parfait and warm butter shortbread biscuits.

Dates: Friday 13th July

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Chicken Terrine served with a homemade Butternut Squash & Cranberry Chutney

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Sea Bass & Salmon Ceviche with a fennel salad

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Pepper Club Sauce

Pommes Dauphine,  Haricot Vert

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Turners Elderflower Cider Jelly with Local Raspberries,

Strawberry Parfait and Warm Butter Shortbread

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

 

Food for thought…

We love a great TV Foodie programme and there seems to be many on our screens at the moment to cover all tastes.

The BBC currently has a series with Mary Berry looking to find the best Home Cook – it is pretty innocuous and you think why have some of these cooks never prepared certain foods or done some fairly basic tasks.

There is also a new series on BBC 1 that has recently started that has Front of House Supremo Fred Siriex hosting a competition for new start up restaurants looking for funding for their concepts “The Million Pound Menu” is filmed in a Manchester restaurant that strangely enough I went to just over a year ago when it first opened

Beastro is the brainchild of a young lad by the name of Richard Brown who just happens to be one of my former men tees from Oxford Brookes University – they took over his place for about three weeks last November and filmed the whole series then.

It is a programme that illustrates well the skills required to succeed in today’s modern restaurant world but at the same time illustrates the need for a good idea /concept

Masterchef can be gripping when you watch amateurs embark on their journey and then the professionals seem to go to jelly when they stand in front of Monica or Marcus when they have to complete a skills test.

The professional version of Bake Off has Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin giving the contestants what for many seem like harsh criticism but in fairness is just honest opinion. Tough if you find criticism is hard to accept.

All of this glamorises the industry in a way but one thing that is very evident at the moment is the demise of many of our high street brands as they struggle to attract our wallets and spending.

Mixed with this is the lack of chefs entering the industry and what is being described as the Brexit factor where our European work force are leaving in their droves or now not keen to come to the UK to work.

I predict many more closures and less choice on the high street. The independent will flourish as we crave something more individual but it will come with a price. The paying public needs to realise the effort required to produce their favourite dishes.

I have just finished reading an article in my Waitrose Food Magazine about Chef Jason Atherton – a chef I really admire and agree wholeheartedly with – the attributes required by all good cooks is passion and a desire to cook – not to be star as quickly as possible.

I will always frequent a place that displays a passion for what they do and I hope you will too as mediocrity is not worthy of our custom.